THE Japanese, European and Korean brands upstaged US stalwarts Cadillac and Lincoln in the luxury stakes at Detroit 2017. The American brands rolled out a couple of concepts we’ve seen before but it was left to the foreigners to steal the show at the top end of town.
Just when you thought there was no new SUV niche left to explore, Audi has unveiled its Range Rover rival, the Q8. Luxury SUV sales continue to grow at record pace, and so to broaden the number of customers it might attract, Audi has built a gigantic four-seat SUV with a low slung roof. It could well be the biggest and heaviest four-seater on the planet. It is based on the underpinnings of the sevenseat Audi Q7 SUV but has a shorter body to make it easier to park. The aggressive nose with a new eight-point grille is also a sign of things to come, says Audi, pointing to its future design direction.
“With the Audi Q8 we will reach new customers. I’m convinced this car will contribute strongly to the success of Audi on a global scale,” says Audi head of global sales Dietmar Voggenreiter. Unofficially, the Q8 is intended to compete against the BMW X6 and the as yet unreleased Rover Rover Sport Coupe. Expect a choice of petrol, diesel or hybrid power. Audi is planning to expand its SUV line-up to include seven vehicles; one in every three cars sold last year by the German brand was an SUV.
The radical design of Toyota’s Japanese luxury brand is starting to show signs of maturity, blending the “Nike swoosh” daytime running lights into the headlights so it now looks more cohesive.
The new Lexus LS is due in Australian showrooms this time next year. The headline act is a new twin turbo 3.5-litre V6 sending its power (310kW and 600Nm) to the rear wheels through a 10-speed auto (a luxury sedan class first). Lexus would not confirm it, but expect this engine and transmission combination to appear in other Lexus performance models in the coming years in the IS and GS ranges. Engines are too expensive to restrict to just one model and Lexus boasted that this powerplant had more grunt than a V8, so we reckon it will form the basis of Lexus’ future F performance range.
Lexus says the new model — unveiled 28 years after the first Lexus went on sale — is “destined to repeat LS history as a car that redefines and advances expectations of luxury motoring and customer satisfaction”. The company may have build quality and customer service nailed, but it’s still lagging on the technology front, with less autonomy than equivalent models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Among the cars of the future were some just around the corner, such as the Mercedes GLA. This car looks familiar because it has been on sale locally for two years. But with a bold new nose (grille, headlights and front bumper) and extra tech inside (keyless entry and Apple Car Play and Android Auto) Mercedes hopes Australian sales will continue to climb. Benz’s baby softroader posted a massive 25 per cent sales growth last year. The new model is due in local showrooms mid-year.
Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti unveiled a concept version of its next generation mid-size SUV. The QX50 has carried over the sweeping lines and unusual shapes from its latest hatchbacks and sedans. According to Nissan, the QX50 is “the latest embodiment of Infiniti’s ‘powerful elegance’ design language and is both aesthetic and functional”. Expect a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid power when the production model arrives in showrooms in 2018.
Another update of the Genesis luxury sedan bowed in Detroit, this one powered by a new twinturbo 3.3-litre V6. The model is called the G80 in the US but unfortunately that engine is unlikely to make it to Australia. Instead the flagship Genesis luxury sedan will continue with a regular 3.8-litre V6. However, we are likely to see the twinturbo V6 engine in the smaller and all-new G70 in Australia late this year. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury offshoot and the G70 is a BMW 3 Series rival.
INFINITI QX50 AUDI Q8 GENESIS G80